How Deep is Your Tank?

You have no idea how much heart you truly have until you get into the ring to fight or spar with another person. Forget for a moment about strategy and technique - just to be able to stand up, stay up, and keep moving will take everything you have. The thing is, you don’t want to be running your engine too far past empty and end up putting yourself on the canvas. You’re going to need a bigger tank. That is, you’re going to need to develop serious stamina sister!

Fighting is intense and demanding, and, a lot like swimming, you’ll be doing much of it while holding your breath. A boxer can expect a busy round to consist of approximately 75% anaerobic activity. Punching, getting punched, avoiding getting punched, it all means holding in your breaths for periods of time, which takes a toll. Exhaustion sets in quickly as your body is taxed, leaving you grasping your opponent and gasping for breath in between bursts of activity. 

And, like swimming again, you’ll have to learn to time your breaths with your actions. But it’s not enough just to optimize your respiration, you’ve got to get your machine well-tuned to stand up to the rigors of fighting and fight training.

So to prepare for battle you should probably start your training day with a long distance run, right? Noooo! Jogging is really pretty pointless for a fighter. The most you’ll accomplish is to burn a few calories, maybe get a tan, and, frankly, put excessive wear and tear on your poor feet and knees. Running is completely aerobic, while boxing, again, is (mostly) anaerobic. Running is relaxing, while boxing is taxing. Get it? Sure, okay, jogging is worthwhile for overall fitness and health, we’re just saying it should not be considered as part of your training for boxing endurance.

jog (jäg)
1. run at a steady gentle pace

When you’re not doing actual boxing training and you want to supplement your conditioning for stamina, the thing to do is any kind of high intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT is essentially alternating extreme anaerobic exercise with periods of lighter aerobic activity. You’ve likely heard of HIIT before, as it’s a popular subject for serious athletes and trainers, but that does not make it a fitness fad. HIIT training has been around forever, they just never had a formal name for it before.

Now, if you still want to include running in your training and you need to build stamina, try doing some interval running. There’s endless ways you can program intervals, but for fighters we’d suggest doing two or three minutes of sustained running near full speed for a minute or so, then drop to a medium speed, sprint for a short distance, and follow it by a minute long jog or walk to catch some breath. Then repeat. You could also call this Sprint Interval Training (SIT), but of course we’d rather HIIT than SIT! haha… 

Like intervals, circuit training is also a great conditioning tool. Again, the idea is to go from one workout to the next with little or no rest in between just like in boxing. Put your focus on getting in the best condition for lasting 2 or 3 minutes since that’s the length of a round. Do several minutes of circuits, take a minute break, and get right back at it. You will know you’re doing it right when you say to yourself “I am probably going to die, but at least this torture will finally end.” And just as it is for fighting, it’s better to be able to do great work for 3 minutes at a time than to be able to do good work for 10 minutes straight.

You can also work the heavy bags and focus mitts or jump rope using the same interval methods. Keep the intensity high while intermittently stomping on the gas every so often for two or three minutes, catch your breath a bit, drink some water, and then right back at it. 

Let’s face it, you want to do your gasping for breath during your conditioning training, not when you’re in the ring facing an opponent. Keep in mind, you should be pushing to your limit, however if you end up doubled over, puking, you’ve overdone it. Listen to your body. Ultimately, your goal is to improve your overall athletic capacity and interval training is a great way to develop this capacity without burning out.

Okay, well what about the popular use of training masks that supposedly mimic the effects of hypoxia (living and exercising at high elevation with limited oxygen), you ask? Well, there do seem to be some benefits to this type of “enhanced” training, however there’s some serious shortcomings. First of all, these masks should really only be employed by high-level athletes during training and maybe not even by them. No athlete should be purposefully depriving herself of oxygen during training. If anything, you want to supply your body as much oxygen as you can get as you exercise. Moreover, most credible studies seem to indicate pretty meager support of these masks to substantially improve stamina.

The bottom line with hypoxic or high elevation training is that when your body is working with less oxygen, you can ultimately expect to become limited in the amount of work you can do. Thus, it would suggest that wearing one of these masks during training would actually decrease your workout potential. Now, if you’re one of those folks who has to wear a “band-aid” on your nose and “copper socks” on your elbows, then, I guess, go ahead and wear a mask. Just don’t wear it when you’re actually training! 

For any serious fighter looking to spar or compete it is not nearly enough for her to be a good puncher, have perfect technique, and solid skills. She must have the ability to last the duration of an entire round and outlast her opponent. Make interval training part of your overall conditioning and make your tank a bit deeper.

Posted on August 27, 2015 .